Jeannette treasurer calls it quits
After months of criticism about a decision in his office and a successful bid by a write-in candidate to compete for his position in the November election, Sam Casino has resigned as Jeannette's treasurer.
“On Tuesday, Mr. Casino came into the office to see me and said he will resign his position effective July 8,” said Michael Minyon, city clerk. “He's not going to be available at work because he believes he has enough vacation time (leading up to July 8).”
Casino, who took office in January 2002, gave the city no official reason for his resignation, according to Minyon. Casino did not return phone calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
Initially, Casino, a Democrat, was running for re-election unopposed this year. During the May primary, Republican Michael Nestico earned enough write-in votes for his name to appear on the ballot in the general election.
Nestico, an attorney, collects past-due garbage bills for the city.
“If elected, (Nestico) would continue those duties and collecting past-due taxes in his role as tax collector,” Mayor Robert Carter said.
Nestico said he was surprised by Casino's resignation, but he doesn't believe it will change his campaign for the office.
Solicitor Scott Avolio is researching what steps the city needs to take now.
“We're looking at what the legal aspects are in this whole thing,” Carter said. “His (Casino's) name is still on the ballot for November. We have to find out if it gets removed for November. If he's resigned, does it preclude him from running in November or is he just resigning for 2013?
“The other point, from the council's standpoint is whether we handle the appointment through council or do we have go through the election bureau or the courts due to (the position) being tax collector and not a council seat,” Carter said.
Nestico said he is ready to serve as treasurer.
“If council decides to appoint me, I am fully prepared to take the office,” Nestico said. “I had previously begun taking steps to prepare for this position and I would welcome the opportunity to get started earlier than expected.”
Nestico said he decided to run the write-in campaign when he learned Casino was unopposed.
“I felt that this office badly needed a change. I decided to step up and be the one to repair this office,” Nestico said. “I'm a lifelong resident of the city. I want to help get things back on track in our town. We are facing difficult times right now, but I believe we can overcome these current issues.”
Earlier this year, Casino decided to stop the practice of sending real estate tax bills to mortgage companies for payment through owners' escrow accounts and instead sent taxpayers letters informing them the bills would be sent directly to them. Taxpayers then needed to forward those bills to mortgage companies for payment.
Several council members and Carter have spoken out against the change and said Casino did not inform them of it.
Councilman Bill Bedont said the decision impacted the city's tax collection and that real estate taxes have been paid more slowly than usual.
In a press release, Casino said in May that he needed to make the change due to staffing cuts in his office.
Council has laid off several employees in most departments and cut the pay of others because of the city's financial crisis.
In the release, Casino said he had three full-time employees and two part-time workers when he took office 11 years ago. That has been reduced to one full-time employee and one part-timer.
“I told council that I could not function properly and I would have to change the way we do things,” Casino said in the release. He said sending bills to individual banks was “constant work with updating the computer with people refinancing, etc.”
For now, there is no official tax collector in the city, Minyon said, but the treasurer's staff can run the office. Minyon said he and other city officials will be available to assist.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.